Listening practice – A singer speaking to the audience

 You already listened to the introductory part of the video (00:00 to 01:25 min) and know that the singer is basically sharing memories about the song, how the idea was born, where the name comes from etc.
Now let’s go into more details.

1) Ordering information

You are going to listen to the same part again. At this point, do NOT use subtitles yet. Read the points from a-f. The singer will mention these points in a different order. Your task is to set the correct order according to how you hear them.


Before you listen: look at each point first bellow (a-f) and write down what kind of words/information you expect to hear for each of them. For example, for point a) when she talks about her past job, you can expect things like:

  • name of a profession (obviously) like teacher, manager, secretary, shop assistant etc
  • when I was a, I used to be a etc

Or for point c) (how she imagined the song to sound originally), we could probably expect to hear adjectives like fast-paced, orchestrated, acoustic etc.

These will be your free ideas, using your ability to think about possible and likely vocabulary to be used for each point mentioned by the singer. Once you have the list, put it aside, we’ll come back to it later.


Now listen and order the points from a-f in the order they are mentioned by the singer in the video.

a) her past job

b) the album where the song was featured

c) how she imagined the song to be

d) the real name of Tom’s Diner

e) the remix a group made of it and what she thought about it

f) where the Diner is

You can repeat listening if you need to in order to complete the task. When you have decided the order, take out your list of predicted vocabulary. Start listening again, and at each point check if there are words or expressions that she uses which are similar to what you predicted earlier.


After this part you can turn the subtitles ON and watch again and check any vocabulary or expression that you didn’t get. (sometimes automated transcriptions are not 100% accurate, so be aware of that).


This is the moment to write down some expressions or new vocabulary that you find useful and would like to learn.


Now relax, sit back, turn the subtitles OFF and watch the same part of the video again. Observe how much you understand, how much easier it feels to follow what the speaker is saying. Do you notice the difference between the first listening and this last one?


Listening practice – the underlying music in the language


Choose any part of a film or TV serie, public talk etc that you like in English. It should feature native speakers. (1-2 minute dialogue, public speech, documentary, interview etc)

If you don’t know what material to choose or need help, let me know by email and I’ll give you other options.

With this exercise you are going to make some observations about the inherent “music” of spoken English.

Set up the part of the film, interview etc. that you want to work on. Use your TV, tablet or whatever you like to play the selected audiovisual material. You will need to connect loudspeakers, not headphones for this exercise. If you have no connectable loudspeakers then simply use your TV.


Start playing the part you have chosen and walk out of the room. Go to a part of the house where you can listen from a distance, still hear the dialogue or speech but not understand it. (walls dampen the sound). Similar to when you hear sound come out of a closed space (a bar, a car etc) that makes it hard to understand but still possible to hear in terms of rhythm and intonation.

What you need to achieve is to hear what the speakers say, making sure it’s mostly unintelligible as you’re listening from another space in the house.

It doesn’t have to be too loud. For example, if the TV is in the living room, go to the next room or the kitchen where you can still hear what they’re saying, but not understand it clearly.

How to listen?
Listen to the speakers as if they were musical instruments producing melody and rhythm. Listen to the “melody” and the “music” of the language. As if it were a language you have never heard before. (you can repeat this part a couple times).


Listening for dynamics
In this part you are going to listen to the same part again, but now in the same space. Don’t watch yet, just listen carefully. Pay attention to the louder parts (bumps) in the intonation the speakers say (the stressed words).

Note taking
Repeat the same part again. This time write down the words you hear louder (stressed words).

Look at your notes and try to guess from the words you wrote down what the conversation, speech, report etc may be about. Summarize it in a simple meaningful sentence.

Example 1
Let’s suppose your chosen material is a YouTube tutorial video on self-driving cars, and that in your notes the words you wrote down are: road, signs, cities, traffic jam, speed, steer, distance etc. If these are the words, this part of the tutorial video will probably be about how the car’s behaviour on the road and various traffic situations. So your summary would be something like this: “I think this video/report etc will explain how self-driving cars run on the road and how they handle certain traffic situations.”

Example 2
If you hear words like software, development, convert, technology, design, models, implement etc, then your video will probably be more on engineering and the project work. In this case you would write something like this: I think this part of the video will talk about how engineers develop software for the cars, and some concrete information about their project work”.

Note: Don’t worry if your prediction based on your notes is finally not exactly the same as what the real material is about. What is important at this point in the exercise is to begin to put your mental focus on the important (stressed) key words. You will need to further develop this habit which will help you follow speakers more easily.

Images help
Now go back to the beginning and listen and watch at the same time. The images will further help you understand what you are listening to. Repeat this part until you understand about 75% of the the dialogue, report etc.

Now you can turn on the subtitles in English and watch the same part again. As you’re listening, go stopping the video to give you time to observe and compare your previous notes with the subtitles.

Look at the notes you made in part “Note taking”. How close did you get to the actual words? What percentage of the main (stressed) words did you catch? Did you catch them correctly?

What about your prediction with the summary text that was based on your notes? Was it close to what the video, report, dialogue etc really is about?


Please bring your notes to next class.

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